Southern Indiana is just weeks away from its first maker space—a facility the four owners say will cater to small businesses, entrepreneurs, artists and even families. Dubbed a “community workshop” by its creators, Maker13 is scheduled to open in May in downtown Jeffersonville’s budding arts and cultural district. Stocked with tools such as 3D printers, laser etching machines and textiles equipment, the facility aims to house a creative spirit that will launch businesses, budding artists and careers in manufacturing.

The creative space with a business edge is perhaps what one would expect from the brains of its four southern Indiana co-owners: two engineers, a financial expert and an artist.

“At its heart, [Maker13] caters to tinkerers, crafters and people who have a business idea, but don’t know how to get started or don’t have the tools necessary to do so,” says Maker13 co-owner and Chief Financial Officer Christy Riley. “We’ll have really powerful tools and give you access to them.”  

For a fee that will be around $100 per month, members can use a long list of advanced manufacturing equipment, including woodworking machinery, metalworking tools and high-tech sewing and embroidery machines. Members without experience will be able to take training classes to learn how to use the equipment.

Co-owners Brian Niehoff and John Riley first realized the need for a maker space in their area through their design engineering work with Maker Mobile, a nonprofit maker space on wheels, partially sponsored by Samtec, where they’re both employed as engineers. Brian’s wife, Lauren Niehoff, an artist whose talents earned $17,000 to help pay for their baby’s adoption, and financially-minded Christy completed the team’s lineup to launch Maker13.

Brian says the eclectic leadership team is what shaped Maker13’s unique “three-prong” approach that focuses on small businesses, artists and the local manufacturing industry. Noting the need for more manufacturing workers in the region, Maker13 leaders are hopeful the workshop could help close the local skills gap.

“We want to bring people in and show them manufacturing isn’t the old, dusty, oily backroom operation that it used to be,” says Brian. “Everything is now computer-controlled; the facilities are clean, and there are good-paying jobs. People can realize they have an interest in this style of work, and we can help them figure out how to make that career path happen.”

Brian says the team aims to have each piece of equipment—some with price tags around $100,000—sponsored by local manufacturers involved in that line of work, “so we can point people toward that company once they get proficient on that style of equipment.”

While Brian and John will keep their full-time engineering jobs, Christy and Lauren—who are majority owners—will run the daily operations. Both mothers of young children, they believe having female leadership helps brings a diverse perspective to Maker13’s mission.

“There are efforts to get young girls in STEM education and learn that they can be doctors, engineers or something really exciting,” says Christy. “And now that I’m a parent, I’ve realized maybe a four-year college isn’t the best option for everyone; if [my kids] want to learn a trade or skill, that might be a better path for them, and I want them to know they can be successful going that route too.”

Kids will be able to work at Maker13 with a parent or guardian’s assistance, and the workshop envisions hosting community groups like Boy and Girl Scout troops. From family affairs to budding business ideas, Maker13 says it will be a one-stop workshop to start a company, create art or test tools that could launch a career.